Vice President Mike Pence defended second lady Karen Pence’s decision to take a teaching job at a school that discriminates against LGBTQ individuals and families, suggesting that the uproar over it is an attack on Christianity.
During an interview with the Catholicism-focused Eternal World Television Network on Thursday, Pence said that the attacks on the Immanuel Christian School, which bans LGBTQ employees, students and families, were offensive to his family.
“To see major news organizations attacking Christian education is deeply offensive to us,” Pence said.
“We’ll let the critics roll off our backs,” the vice president continued. “But this criticism of Christian education should stop.”
The interview comes just two days after HuffPost broke the news that Karen Pence accepted a job at the Immanuel Christian School in Northern Virginia. The school refuses to admit any students who participate in or condone homosexual or bisexual activity and included in its 2018 employment application a requirement that applicants pledge not to participate in or condone “homosexual activity,” or violate the “unique roles of male and female.”
The employment application also says the school believes in a definition of marriage that strictly includes “one man and one woman” and notes that “a wife is commanded to submit to her husband as the church submits to Christ.”
In its parent agreement, the school reserves the right to expel a student if they, their parents, or someone in their household engages in homosexual or bisexual activity, or supports or condones that behavior.
Virginia is one of dozens of states that do not prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual and gender identity.
Mike Pence on Thursday said that religious schools like Immanuel Christian School were a part of American tradition and are protected by the constitutional right of freedom of religion.
“We have a rich tradition in America of Christian education and frankly religious education broadly defined,” he said.
“We celebrate it. The freedom of religion is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States.”
Others see Pence’s decision to teach at Immanuel Christian School, which includes students from kindergarten to eighth grade, as an endorsement of discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
“It’s disturbing Second Lady Karen Pence would put her stamp of approval on an institution that actively targets LGBTQ students at one of the places where they should feel the safest,” Sarah Kate Ellis, president of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, said in a statement.
Ellis noted that many young students coming to terms with their gender identity turn to the arts as a “safe haven.”
“As an art teacher, I suspect [Pence] is aware of that,” she said.
A spokeswoman for the second lady said that Pence was previously employed by the school for 12 years while her husband, Mike Pence, was in Congress.
“It’s absurd that her decision to teach art to children at a Christian school, and the school’s religious beliefs, are under attack,” Pence spokeswoman Kara Brooks told HuffPost.
In a statement to USA Today, the first lady said she was “excited to be back in the classroom and doing what I love to do. I have missed teaching art.”
Watch Mike Pence’s full interview here.